How to Refinish Hardwood Floors


Authored by Douglas Mefford in Home Improvement 
Published on 11-30-2009

Hardwood flooring adds a distinctive touch to the appearance of a home. But as with all things, time and use can leave the flooring looking worn and dull. It is possible to refinish your hardwood floor and have it looking fresh and new. Refinishing a hardwood floor is a labor-intensive operation and an inexperienced worker can cause permanent damage. While professional help is recommended, it is possible to refinish your floor yourself.

There are a few considerations to make before you begin to refinish your hardwood floor. Sanding removes material from the wood of the floor so you need to check the thickness. Any floor less than three fourths of an inch thick should either not be sanded or be worked on only by a trained professional. Any warping or other damage to the floor should be repaired before beginning the refinishing. If the floor is constructed by the tongue and groove method, make sure there is enough surface wood to prevent sanding into the jointing.

To begin the process, you must remove everything from the room. If the floor extends into a closet space you will need to empty this as well. Block off any openings in the room including vents, electrical outlets, and lighting fixtures. Close off doorways with plastic drop cloths as well to prevent dust from circulating into the rest of the house. Go over the floor and remove any carpet tacks and deep-set any nails that are close to the surface. You will need to remove any molding from the baseboard wall so the entire wooden surface is exposed.

You will now be ready to start the sanding process. While a drum sander is fast and efficient when properly used, a rotary sander may be easier for the do-it-yourself homeowner. Start with course-grade sandpaper and begin at the center of the room. Always sand with the grain. Make sure that when you use the edge-sander to get at the walls and corners, use the same grade sandpaper. You will need to do this several times, each time using finer grade sandpaper. Carefully sweep and vacuum the dust up from the floor between each sandpaper change. A final polish with a dry dust cloth or damp tack cloth will make sure all the debris is removed that could mar the new finish.

Once you are satisfied with the smoothness of the new surface, it is time to apply either the stain or sealant that you have decided on for the new hardwood floor surface. Carefully follow the directions on the container of whichever stain you use. Make sure the area is well ventilated as toxic fumes can be released. It is a good idea to test the new stain in an out of the way corner or closet at the first to make sure you are happy with the color it will produce on your new hardwood floor surface. While some stains and sealant need only a single coat, others will require several. Keep close eye on the drying times, as the second coat of some sealant needs to be put down before the first coat has “cured” for the best results.


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